TheSupervillains' sound isn't one that will shake the foundations of ska, reggae or punk, but the Orlando-based band draw from those genres vibrantly and competently enough to produce a respectable combination. Dominic "Dom" Maresco and Scott "Skart" Suldo started playing together when they were 16 and formed the band well more than a decade ago. Through several shifting modifications, the core of the group has remained the same. Their latest record, Postcards From Paradise, was released on LAW Records a couple of weeks ago.
Aside from featuring more of their laidback, summery originals, the album includes a cover of George Michael's "Careless Whisper"--an able-bodied companion to their take on Billy Joel's "Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)," which appeared on 2008's Massive. Tonight, the Supervillains play at the House of Blues in Anaheim with Off With Their Heads, Headshine and Less Than Jake. We caught up with drummer/singer Dom for a quick chat on his opinions on young ska bands and Elvis Costello, as well as why the band is allowed to eat soup onstage if they want to.
OC Weekly (Reyan Ali): Let's start by discussing a few of your past comments about contemporary ska. You've made some entertaining observations before.
Dominic Maresco: Here we go.
In the Albuquerque Alibi, you said, "Ska used to have soul. . . . Nowadays, if your friend tells you he's in a ska band, it probably sounds like shit."What kind of stuff are you referring to in particular, and what is ska missing now?
I don't know. Here we go; I'm going to get myself in trouble. Many times in many papers, I've been misquoted. Sometimes, I don't even know if it's me or Skart. I feel like back in the day, man, you had more love. I'm starting to see it again. A bunch of clubs do free shows and stuff like that, but back in the day, it used to be something that we lived for. That's what we did. We went to shows every time we got a chance. We went to some hole-in-the-wall, hung out with all our friends, danced and beat one another's asses.
Back in the day, it was all about the scene. I don't even know how to say this, but it's hard and almost unnecessary to have a scene to be successful anymore. It's so easy to get your music out there. Back in the day, we were kids, and there was no Facebook or MySpace. It was a whole bunch of bands constantly playing shows together and promoting. We made sure it was an event, not just a show--something huge. Everybody remembers [a show] and talks about it for days and days. Now, it's so much different. If you halfway know what you're doing with the Internet, you could be an overnight success.
Is there any way bands can actively rekindle that spirit that you think has been lost?
Yes, definitely. I was just dealing with this yesterday. Everybody wants the quick-and-easy route,and it's not how it happens in this business. If it does happen that way, you're awesome for about five minutes, and then after that, no one remembers who you are. It's all in the way I look at life in general. You've got to put in the legwork. One thing I remember is that I always wanted to be the headliner. I always wanted to play last. When you're first starting out, all you ever want to do is play before bands because you want the crowd to be subject to you, and you want to make this contrast so that the bands that do play after you get you to play shows in their markets and bring you on tour. It's something that works for us now. Right now, we're out with Less Than Jake. How much cooler can that be? One of the things I would definitely tell a younger band is to pay attention when you're playing with these bands and try to make friends with them. Don't go crashing their green room and stealing their beer. Be respectful and try to learn from these bands--they're obviously doing something you're not doing right.
What attracted you to ska and reggae in the first place?
Back when I first listened to ska and punk and stuff like that, it was all because I saw a group of people I wanted to be a part of. [This was a way to] keep my music playing going and not sit at home and play drums in my basement by myself. I saw these kids dancing and partying and having a great time, and I wanted to be a part of it. Sublime was out then, NOFX was raging, [as well as] all these crazy bands [such as] The Toasters [and] Less Than Jake. It's so huge to go on tour with Less Than Jake because we used to listen to them so much.
There have been many bands you've talked about in interviews before as influences--Operation Ivy, The Specials, Sublime and Bob Marley, among others--but what's a more unorthodox name that people wouldn't associate with the Supervillains that you think has shaped the band's sound?
I've said it before in a couple of interviews: Elvis Costello is really huge for me. When he's cooking, he adds a little dash of reggae and a little dash of rock and a little dash of soul. I think that's awesome. A huge influence personally would also be Weezer, which would be a weird one. Pinkerton is fuckin' pure genius. I like songs like that--a record you can listen to all day, every day. That record in particular makes you feel better when you're down. That's huge for me. How do you put emotion on a record like that to where it sticks out that much and people remember it?
One of the primary subjects the Supervillains discuss is weed. You have a song called "Crippy Weed" and an album called Grow Yer Own, and in the half-hour of that Alibi interview, you mentioned pot a half-dozen times. Why is that subject so important to the band? Why focus on that rather booze (excluding the band's interest in Jägermeister) or another drug such as cocaine?
I actually use weed, so that's one thing. I'm not necessarily into hard drugs or anything, or at least not in interviews. Using marijuana as medicine is a very real and serious thing, and I think there are a lot of people out there who need it. Personally, I like the effects of it. I'm very into staying mellow because I'm a very hyper person, so it's really helping me out. The other guys in the band, same exact thing. We all stand on the same leg there. And I don't like cocaine; I just like the way it smells.
One live review of the Supervillains compared it to the atmosphere of a bachelor party. In another interview, you've emphasized that the band are intent on having a good time, even if that means you want to be onstage eating soup for half an hour.
I totally remember the soup thing. [The idea behind] the soup thing is, we go up there and we do what we think we need to do to entertain a crowd and for the crowd to have a good time. I just hate it when people are telling you to hurry up or play this song or play that song. It's like, 'Shut the fuck up. You came to the show to see us; now let us show you why you came to see us.' We do what we want onstage. If we feel like going up there and eating soup for half an hour, that's what we're gonna do. It just comes down to why you go see the band. You see the band because you want to hear what they have to offer. If not, then have the fuckin' guy start his own band.
What elements are most crucial to creating a live show that's particularly great?
We feed off the crowd. We feed off people saying stuff in the middle [of a set] when there's silence and stuff. We see the crowd dancing and moving around, and that makes us want to be more energetic. That definitely shows through our playing and attitude onstage. One of the biggest things ever is lights when playing. If you've got crazy stupid lights in your face and you can't see the crowd at all, you'll have the slowest, dullest show ever. We don't ever have a setlist because we play off the crowd, but we don't necessarily need to hear requests to make it happen.